Montag, 29. September 2008

Who is responsible for global warming?

Academic Essay Writing, SS2008, lecturer: Linda Paul, home essay
It is scientifically proven that the average global temperature is rising[1] and only very few people still doubt that it is an effect of human action. But while many concentrate on blaming certain governments for not having signed the Kyoto protocol[2] one has to become aware that energy is not consumed by some abstract institutions such as states or nations but by the people themselves. Therefore, the responsible for global warming is the individual consuming a great amount of energy; that is the individual living in a highly developed industrial nation.
One reason for an unnecessarily high amount of consumed energy is the shifting of sleep and wake periods in the average Western life style. It certainly is an element of greater individual freedom to be able to go to sleep at five o’clock in the morning and to get up at three o’clock in the afternoon. But daylight shines anyway; electric light needs to be generated by the burning of fossil fuels. This contributes to global warming through the burning itself and through the emission of carbon dioxide. The freedom to enjoy activities at every moment of the day also includes the freedom to make a choice for the sake of the environment.
Another example is the use of airplanes for public transport. One can obviously not ask the modern people to renounce to the “individual freedom to fly — a freedom […] that has been a part of the American way of life for this past century”[3] but they need to become aware that it is paid with an accelerated global warming. While one could blame the low ticket prices as a consequence of the absurd policy to tax fuel for cars, trains and busses but not kerosene, it is still the consumer who has the choice. A higher investment of time and money on his or her side could contribute much to environmental protection since a flight uses at least twice as much energy per person as a bus ride[4].
Less well known than the first two examples is the fact that the production of meat as food requires much more energy than the production of plants. As the Green Guide indicates, a diet heavily based on meat costs twice the energy than a diet based on cereals and vegetables[5]. Furthermore, methane, a gas emitted by animal livestock, "is more than 20 times as strong a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide”[6]. To contribute to a sustainable development, it is not necessary to live the “unnatural lifestyle” of a vegetarian[7] but an excessive consumption of meat neither is healthy nor natural, nor environmentally responsible. If low meat prices, possible through mass animal husbandry, encourage a way of life consuming more energy than necessary, it is again the consumer who has the final choice. Freedom does not only mean to do what one feels like but includes a responsibility towards others and the environment.
Already in 1971, the American physicist and science fiction author Isaac Asimov states, that it is simply not possible for all of the then 3.6 billion human beings of the earth to use as much energy as the average American[8]. Even with new, extremely effective technologies, the American way of life for everybody would have dire consequences for our planet. Therefore it can not be the goal to raise everybody’s living standard. On the contrary, energy consumption needs to be limited not only by legal force or new technologies but by a responsible, sustainable life style of each individual.

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